South Africa

GROUNDUP

Abahlali baseMjondolo to sue NPA over ‘false’ arrest and imprisonment of activist members 

Dozens of Abahlali baseMjondolo members celebrate outside the Magistrates' Court in Durban on Monday after the charges against them were dropped. (Photo: Nokulunga Majola)

Charges against representatives of the shack dwellers movement were withdrawn on Monday.

First published by GroundUp.

Charges were dropped against Mqapheli Bonono, the deputy president of shack dweller social movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, and his co-accused, Maphiwe Gasela and Siniko Miya, on Monday.

They appeared briefly in the Magistrates’ Court in Durban on charges of intimidation and conspiracy to murder a witness in the case of Vusi Shandu. Shandu, who was killed in March 2020, had been a resident of eKhenana informal settlement in Cato Manor.

Last week, we reported that the state also withdrew charges against Ayanda Ngila, Lindokuhle Mnguni and Lando Tshazi, also accused of Shandu’s murder. The trio are community leaders in eKhenana informal settlement. Abahlali has previously said that the arrests of its members was an attempt to intimidate them and silence their fight for housing.

On Monday, the state said it had insufficient evidence to prosecute Bonono, Gasela and Miya. Bonono and Gasela spent more than two weeks at Westville Prison before they were granted bail of R2,000 each in May while Miya was denied bail and has been in prison for six months.

According to Abahlali baseMjondolo, the state’s witnesses had admitted to making false statements that implicated the activists.

Outside court, Bonono told GroundUp that the past six months have been very difficult for them and their families. “I felt stripped naked as my dignity was dragged through the mud and [I was] branded as a murderer. My father got sick because of this. How do we get our dignity back?” asked Bonono.

Bonono said he wants to see justice take its course and for the people who lied to face the law.

Gasela said, “I am thankful the truth finally came out. As activists, we join the struggle knowing very well that we might be arrested or evicted for land-related matters, but not for murder.”

In a statement Abahlali baseMjondolo said: “The arrests of the eKhenana Six were a politically motivated farce. If anyone can make an evidently dishonest and malicious allegation against activists that results in arrest and imprisonment it will be open season on our movement, and other organisations and struggles. This needs to stop now.”

Abahlali said the National Prosecuting Authority should be compelled to answer for its actions. “We will be instructing our lawyers to sue.” DM

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